The 30 Best Games of E3 2015

[Bryce Abood contributed to this article]

Artwork by Citrus King

Well, yet another E3 has ended. The exhibits are being taken down, the masses are done celebrating their annual gaming binge, and the tears of Nintendo fans are still being mopped up. And of course, the games media now has to compile all of their thoughts and let the world know what the highlights of the whole shebang were. So with Bryce and I having been immersed in constant blasts of hype for the past 72-plus hours with as little sleep or nourishment as humanly possible and hopped up on grossly irresponsible amounts of caffeine, now seems like the perfect time to share our thoughts on the best games from this year’s E3! You’ve seen our initial thoughts on what was shown. Now come on in and let’s see some of the best games we uncovered throughout the whole thing!

30. What Remains of Edith Finch

The tale of one girl’s quest to uncover the fates of her former family members was so engrossing, even as a short demo, that I am honestly kind of afraid of mentioning anything due to potential spoilers. Yes, even in its earliest stages, it’s something that you simply have to experience first-hand to believe. So let’s just say that this beautiful first-person adventure appears to set up a surreal and immersive tale with many twists, turns, and challenges that weirded AND creeped me out all at the same time and leave it at that, ‘kay? [KL]

29. Star Wars: Battlefront

I didn’t get to play this one, but I had some friends who did. The lines were insane, and even sweet talking my way into a VIP pass meant hours of standing in line. So I’m going off what I could glean off peering over shoulders, and seems like the most realistic Star Wars simulator ever. I don’t have much to add to what you see in the trailer, but I will say that my friends who played the demo said the host never once called Admiral Ackbar by his name, but rather General Ackbar. And this isn’t a promotion, this would be a lateral move. I know somebody is confused, I just can’t tell if it’s me or the EA employee. [BA]

28. Horizon: Zero Dawn

As I mentioned earlier this week, I was a bit critical of Horizon: Zero Dawn when I first saw it, but warmed up to it after I saw it in action. Those beautiful graphics, that lush scenery, the fun-looking gameplay…and of course, the fact that a huge part of this game apparently involves hunting down robot dinosaurs. It definitely looks like they’re also going to include an interesting story about the demise of modern civilization, but come on, robot dinosaur battles. You know you can’t say no to any game including such majesty. [KL]

27. Mighty No. 9

Unsurprisingly, I felt a heavy dose of Mega Man still lingering in Mighty No. 9. But what I also felt were some unique combat mechanics, in the form of a system that encourages dash attacks and strategy, a nice dose of story and narrative, and an overall upgrade containing some of the best elements of modern indie games working perfectly along the game’s old-school roots. Glad to see my Kickstarter donation was not wasted here. [KL]

26. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

I’m going to take a wild stab here & say that comparisons between the Uncharted games and the Indiana Jones franchises are nothing new, but as I mentioned earlier this week, I was getting some heavy Last Crusade vibes from the latest Uncharted 4 clips. And I mean that in the best way possible. The action-packed gameplay, witty banter, and lush, lovely-looking locales may be the best in the series this time around, so here’s hoping for the best. [KL]

25. Mother Russia Bleeds

I’m glad Kyle showed me the light with Devolver, because this game was awesome. It’s a side-scrolling brawler like Streets of Rage or Double Dragon in the style of the ’80s noir that is so popular right now, and it has sports pigs in fetish gear as well as human nudity. It’s a pretty solid combination of elements, and it helps that the gameplay and mechanics are clever yet simple. The composer played with us, and we geeked out over both Tron soundtracks. I’ll definitely be playing again. [BA]

24. Party Hard

It might be easy to look at Party Hard and just see it as a cheesy murder simulator where you kill your neighbors for throwing loud parties. But what I played was a lovely little corpse-filled indie title with a hefty dose of black comedy, one that actually requires a great amount of strategy in order to clear a room effectively. So what we have here is proof that a game based around killing hordes of annoying people can actually have wit and color in its presentation and brains in its gameplay. Not that I’m calling out any other games or anything… [KL]

23. GNOG

GNOG is another one of those games that I can’t really accurately describe with words alone. And that’s kind of why I love it. A lot. But to try and explain what’s going on, I’ll just mention that GNOG is a game where you explore giant, colorful monster heads and the rooms within them where you have to alter each area and solve puzzles in order to unlock portals to the next giant head. Yeah, it’s that kind of game. And by that, I mean it’s a game with a heavy emphasis on experimentation, art and music that I can’t wait to see more of. [KL]

22. Gang Beasts

I know in the video they call them drunk gummy babies, but before I heard that phrase I was convinced I was looking at furries wrestling in a ring. It is as much fun as it looks. If a game has furries AND wrestling, Topless Robot awards points. [BA]

21. King’s Quest

I admit that I wasn’t fully sold on the revival of King’s Quest when I first saw it last year. But after getting my hands on it and experiencing the classic world of Daventry updated with Walking Dead-esque graphics and a cartoonish kick, a great sense of humor, and some truly solid gameplay, you can all consider me a believer now. Plus, it’s a game with Christopher Lloyd narration telling us all about the story of Sir Graham’s journey, and there isn’t anything ol’ Doc Brown isn’t capable of improving. [KL]

20. Until Dawn

Until Dawn, is exactly what it looks like: Heavy Rain blended together with an ’80s horror film, right down to one character’s particularly cheesy acting. That… may not have been intentional. But even that couldn’t sour the experience I had, which featured some fine gameplay, a note-perfect creepy setting and atmosphere, and a simple yet impressive set of challenges to tackle and choices to make. Granted, there was no way to experience the game’s “Butterfly Effect” system in a such a short demo, but if the whole is as good as the part I played, I’d say we’re in for a suspense-filled treat. [KL]

19. Guitar Hero Live

Earlier this week we said we would make sure to branch out of our own personal preferences, and the Guitar Hero series is one that I have publicly decried (while moonwalking at the same time). But Guitar Hero Live had me laughing hysterically, and in a genuine way. Its best addition isn’t the controller, it’s the live footage of the bands you are playing with on the stage, custom tailored to your performance. When you suck, your drummer or lead singer glares at you or mouth yells “come on!” But since these are real people, and mostly great actors, they look like he wants to punch you for messing up the song. They can be extra fun when you are rocking too; I loved the band moments even more than the crowd moments. As a musician I related to these live scenes so well that I even became friends with the Guitar Hero people after laughing so hard. No moonwalking though. [BA]

18. To Leave

Freaky Creations, a development studio based in Ecuador, has crafted a game about a boy named Harm trying to find himself. To do this, he is convinced he needs to leave the city he is in, a surreal landscape that is charming but still has a cool sense of dread. Successfully floating on your door through the challenging levels is even more rewarding when you get such great scenery for each level. I asked the developers a lot of story questions, and they were very careful not to reveal much but explained some key elements. I left with the impression that this game will have a heady story with heart. [BA]

17. We Happy Few

I’ve said this before, but I’m starting to feel a bit tired of the recent overload of games set in or inspired by Victorian London. That alone was a reason for me to be heavily interested in We Happy Few, a game set in a happy, cheery, alternate 1960s bit of Britain…where all of the residents will beat you to a pulp if you aren’t happy enough. It’s one of the most unique survival games I’ve seen in recent memory, one where staying alive means knowing when to blend in expertly with a bunch of smiling psychos, and where you’re always paranoid and not sure if they know that you’re faking your happiness or not. Definitely one of the most clever games in development at the moment, and one to watch out for. [KL]

16. Crossing Souls

I want to repeat that the good retro game is the one that evokes nostalgia instead of merely referencing it. And while Crossing Souls has a ton of little Easter eggs, nods, and background details referencing your 1980s childhood classics, it still manages to deliver a terrific, old-school action-RPG experience with the small-town charm of Earthbound and neat gameplay mechanics allowing you to interact with spirits of the deceased. The developers have said that this is all an ode to classic childhood adventures like The Goonies or E.T., and so far their game looks like it might end up as beloved as those films too. [KL]

15. Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam

On Wednesday I mentioned that I had high hopes for Paper Jam, and from the portion I played it delivers! Of course, Nintendo putting out a great Mario game is like Kenny G playing a great sax solo [wat – Jim], but here it’s two saxophones at one time. The Paper series and the Mario and Luigi series mix very well together, and given that mainstream comics have made multiverses an everyday thing, it doesn’t even come across as a bloated concept. The action/mini-game aspect was ever present, the humor was there, and most of all it was fun. It’s great to have solid Mario RPG games, Nintendo. [BA]

14. Star Fox Zero

I feel bad for cussing over Metroid …wait. No I don’t. But we should honor Star Fox Zero for a second, because the fact remains that while Nintendo was the low point of the conference for a lot of people, they had several great games that did have plenty of people cheering (I haven’t included Super Mario Maker on here, but crowds around this demo were thick and incredibly energetic from open to close). They are mocked by fans and haters alike, yet still sell their product well enough to survive and thrive. Star Fox Zero is everything you could want from an updated entry to the series, and the vehicle-swapping at will is a blast. It’s a fun game in the sky, but on the ground it takes on a life of its own. I do have a gripe about how the gamepad was incorporated, as well as a slightly awkward targeting mode that changes your camera so your ship moves side to side instead of forward. In a gaming hall surrounded by a lot of great VR headsets, the ‘use your gamepad to look around!’ trick was a little goofy. Maybe they could relaunch a modernized Virtual Boy to compete with the Rift and such. [BA]

13. Persona 4: Dancing All Night

What you see here is the only Vita title that I could find on the show floor. God damn you, Sony. Thankfully, it was a particularly awesome Vita title; a rhythm game with some perfectly simple yet challenging gameplay and – of course – an incredible soundtrack. Granted, I still don’t understand how the world of Persona translates into a rhythm game, but it allows for several sweet visuals that had the end of my game climaxing with a sentai warrior playing an electric guitar, so no complaints here. [KL]

12. Edge of Nowhere

I get the fascination with the VR trend, and I understand how total immersion is on a lot of people’s minds. I also tend to stay away from first person shooters that aren’t Metroid Prime. Oculus has acknowledged that people who love third person games want in on the fun: seven of the nine playable games were third person.
Edge of Nowhere is a Lovecraft love letter, stranding your character on a snowy mountain with tentacle monsters chasing you. At one point they were coming from behind me and the only way I could see them, obviously, was to turn around in my chair while my guy kept running forward, off camera and out of my sight. God this game was exhilarating. It hasn’t been greenlit for full production yet, but start hoping now. You really need to play it. [BA]

11. Battleborn

Even if Gearbox is still feeling the backlash from the whole Aliens: Colonial Marines crapfest, that definitely isn’t changing my opinion that Battleborn had a lot of sheer fun to offer. Imagine the terrific gunplay, humor, and style of the Borderlands games mixed with the mechanics and memorable characters of a MOBA, and you have what’s shaping up to be a complete hoot of an FPS with some grand co-op gameplay. So start getting those trigger fingers in shape again, folks… [KL]

10. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

I haven’t played any of this series but we saw a demo in a theater and it was amazing. Combat, stealth, puzzles – it’s all here, and up to you how you want to play. The developers were great about showing off several styles within a short period of time, and it seems like a game that is tailored to fit the player while still providing a well-paced and concise story. I’d also like to give a nod to the sound designer, Steve Szczepkowski. The theater we were in had great surround sound speakers, and the quality of the immersion was a key ingredient to my having a great time. Keep kicking ass, Steve. [BA]

9. The Flame in The Flood

I still can’t believe that one my most anticipated games of the year is essentially a cross between Toobin’, survival sims, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. I guess that’s a testament to just how unique and memorable The Flame in The Flood seems. The story of a girl and her faithful dog rafting across a flooded woodland America plays like a challenging classic, an amazing world with lots to discover and a killer folk rock soundtrack from Chuck Ragan to back it all up. Indeed, this looks to be an incredible whitewater ride worth taking. [KL]

8. Guild of Dungeoneering

Here’s another game that I played that was definitely out of my comfort zone. That I feel the need to bring it up speaks to its impeccable quality. Most interesting of its elements is the concept of not controlling the hero, but building the environment and placing obstacles in their way. You want your hero to be stronger? Build a room, put a giant vampire bat in there and guide him in to battle. He’ll then level up, get new cards, etc. Getting the hang of this approach was one of those ‘aha!’ moments that makes you feel smarter while playing a video game. And the blueprint/sketchbook look adds a lot too. I gotta say is creative, very well crafted, and cute as shit. [BA]

7. Enter the Gungeon

So you’re an intrepid adventurer in a giant roguelike maze battling an army of giant sentient bullets and various other bullet-toting enemies firing additional flurries of bullets at you whom you then have to kill with…well, bullets were available at first, but then I found the flamethrower and roasted up everything in sight while flipping over tables and wrecking up countless scenery like it was all a pixelated John Woo movie.

I had a damn ton of fun with Enter the Gungeon, is what I’m saying. [KL]

6. Gigantic

To put it simply, Gigantic may just be the most fun that I’ve ever had with a MOBA. Granted, part of this could be due to the fact that this was the first MOBA that I’m apparently halfway decent at. But the majority of it is no doubt due to this being a terrific blend of the best parts of both MOBAs and third-person shooters. And with a colorful and fun cast of characters, the tale of two armies and their colossal beasts duking it out has never felt sweeter. Seriously, fighting alongside a thirty-foot dragon-like creature has never felt so good. [KL]

5. Unravel

EA’s star of the show has a great hook: you are yarn and you unravel while also using your slack as a tool to progress to the next replenishing ball of yarn. It’s a simple concept that allows for great game building, and its unique vibe really helps it stand out. The demonstration included the game’s origins, and it’s a…yarn worth spinning. The creator is ready for a change in his company’s direction. He has the yarn idea and pitches it on a whim before going on a camping trip. While camping, he gets the call. However, time is against him: the suits wanted to see proof of concept THEN AND THERE. So he makes the yarn figure (named Yarny) and takes photographs of the trail of slack being utilized in the natural campgrounds around him. The vibe and idea sold it, and everything needed to stay as is. Thus, a first stab at character design and a setting that was simply the only one available helped shape a game that truly rocks. I can’t wait to play it again. [BA]

4. Cuphead

This was my favorite game of the show. Everything is hand drawn, none of the sound is digital, and the music is composed by a real jazz historian. The spirit of Max Fleischer is evoked with total love and care, and here’s the coolest part: this is Studio MDHR’s first project. Microsoft found them through gifs on the internet, and they were given complete control with no deadline. After trying out the Contra-meets-Mega Man gameplay, we got to talk with MDHR. They assured us that while 2016 is the goal, they won’t release it until it is completely ready. And it’s 70% boss rushes! Yes! The only thing that could possibly make this all cooler is when I asked what their favorite vintage cartoon was. [BA]

3. Armikrog

This one gets similar props to Cuphead for being a video game that has no computer animation in it. From the creators of Earthworm Jim, this is a stop motion point-and-click made with clay puppets with wire skeletons on a green screen smaller than a coffee table. I spoke with animator Mike Dietz and he was passionate about the characters he and the team had created. He even spent his free time at the expo sketching the Armikrog and Beak Beak. Armikrog is another one that shows it was made with love. [BA]

2. Fallout 4

Honestly, Fallout 4 could have easily taken a top spot here just for the fact that the developers took the Mad Max: Fury Road route and realized the post-apocalypse is actually allowed to contain color. Of course, cranking everything previous Fallout games had up to eleven with incredible amounts of depth and customization helps too. The result looks like a beautiful bit of insanity with an intriguing story and an epic world that I can’t wait to dive into. Oh, and you’ll also have the ability to play Donkey Kong on your Pip-Boy now. Even more ways to waste time in the wasteland? Hell yes! [KL]

1. The Last Guardian

Oh, was this a tough choice, having to give the Best of Show award to either Fallout 4 or The Last Guardian. Both were the show’s biggest highlights, and both clearly deserve the highest honors, but only one could make it to the top…and in the end, The Last Guardian won out. What can I say? The absolutely breathtaking graphics, glorious sense of grandeur, terrific gameplay that relies on a strong emotional bond, and the promise of an epic story hit all of the right chords for me. I have heard some people argue that the game doesn’t look “next-gen” enough, but to hell with that. Slick graphics or not, I was moved more by six minutes of a boy and his massive dog-bird than any other games at E3 this year. Kudos, Team Ico. Kudos. [KL]

Honorable Mentions: Rise & Shine, Gunsport, Typoman, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Bedlam, Moon Hunters, Drawn to Death, Tembo the Badass Elephant, ReCore, Just Cause 3

…And thus ends Kyle and Bryce’s Excellent E3 Adventure. We know that we’re missing some other notable games (sorry, Halo fans), but if have your own picks for the show’s best games or just want to comment on our own selections, feel free to sound off in the comments. We hope you’ve all enjoyed this year’s E3 offerings. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to cap this all off with my annual ritual of fainting in a cheap hotel room after a sugar crash and sleeping in for the first time in several days. See you all next time!

Previously by Kyle LeClair and Bryce Abood:

6 Reasons Nintendo Should Make More Games Like Splatoon
Mars Attacks – Again! We Reveal 7 Cards From the New Occupation Set
50 Songs That Should Be In Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero Live
7 Reasons We Don’t Need Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness